Wild teas are valuable genetic resources for studying domestication and breeding. Here we report the assembly of a high-quality chromosome-scale reference genome for an ancient tea tree. The further RNA sequencing of 217 diverse tea accessions clarifies the pedigree of tea cultivars and reveals key contributors in the breeding of Chinese tea. Candidate genes associated with flavonoid biosynthesis are identified by genome-wide association study. Specifically, diverse allelic function of CsANR, CsF3'5'H and CsMYB5 is verified by transient overexpression and enzymatic assays, providing comprehensive insights into the biosynthesis of catechins, the most important bioactive compounds in tea plants. The inconspicuous differentiation between ancient trees and cultivars at both genetic and metabolic levels implies that tea may not have undergone long-term artificial directional selection in terms of flavor-related metabolites. These genomic resources provide evolutionary insight into tea plants and lay the foundation for better understanding the biosynthesis of beneficial natural compounds.